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Rival Religions: Christianity vs. the Public Schools

Written by Gary North on November 29, 2013

Five decades ago, R. J. Rushdoony’s book on American education, The Messianic Character of American Education,  was jointly published by the tiny publishing house, Presbyterian and Reformed, and the newly created Craig Press. It remains the most academically rigorous critique of the philosophy of progressive education ever written. Its title tells all.

This book was a follow-up on his 1961 book, Intellectual Schizophrenia. In that book, he set forth the Christian case against the concept of neutral education. He also set forth the case against tax-funded education.

Rushdoony received an M. A. degree in education from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1940. He had assembled by 1963 what most people would regard as an immense personal library, and heavily represented in it was the field of education. He had access to superior libraries, including Stanford University. This is why he was able to reference so many obscure publications that had not seen the light of day in decades. They may have not seen the light of day for a century.

In The Messianic Character of American Education, Rushdoony presented the primary theme of the book on page 2:

But if skills are only a necessary but subordinate part of freedom, then in themselves they cannot constitute a liberal education, however necessary to it. The question again remains basically a religious question, and, to its credit, progressivism has been essentially a religious movement, as indeed has been the whole of the movement from Horace Mann to the present, to liberate man by means of a universal system of state-supported schools.

Rushdoony went through the primary source documents relating to the two dozen founders of American progressive education. Most of the documents which he cited had been long out-of-print. They had been long forgotten. Most of the founders of progressive education had been forgotten by 1963. Only a handful of specialists in the history of the education were ever aware of most of these individuals. So, the book represented not simply educational revisionism, but a much-needed introduction to the educational philosophies undergirding the system of tax funded education in the United States.

There had never been another book like this. There was no comparable introduction to these two dozen figures in one volume. There was no place for any researcher to go to gain access to their names, a summary of their philosophies, footnotes to what they actually wrote, and an assessment of what their influence was.

Second, there had never been a comprehensive critique of these individuals and their philosophies. There were critiques of progressive education. But there was nothing comprehensive. There was nothing that took a fundamental principle of interpretation, namely, the religion of salvation by tax funded education, and then demonstrated, citation by citation, from the original sources, that the founders of American tax funded education really did believe in this religion.

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10 thoughts on “Rival Religions: Christianity vs. the Public Schools

  1. If only Christians would recognize the truth of the title of this article by Dr. North. To send our children to the heathen to be educated is tantamount to the Israelites of old sending their children to Canaanites to be schooled.

  2. RedMeatState says:

    I will never understand the disconnect that America has had with the First Amendment!!
    The Bill of Rights are a declaration of secured Rights of the People and a clear prohibition upon Government Power to intrude into the private lives of citizens! How Hugo Black defined 1A as a prohibitions against the "church" and create a "separation" of church and state was either an exercise in intellectual deficiency (to the extreme) or a deliberate attempt to destroy these protections and give government unrestricted power! I vote reason #2.
    It is so very clear that there is a SEPARATION BETWEEN STATE and : CHURCH, SCHOOL, PRIVATE LIVES, PRIVATE SECTOR, PERSONAL PROPERTY, etc., etc., that no further discussion needs to be made!!
    It's ALWAYS government officials claiming powers they were never intended to have, not the other way around!!

  3. redmeatstate says:

    to relinquish our personal responsibilities to the State or any other entity for our Children's education and welfare is so incredibly wicked and depraved as to defy all reason.

  4. progressive by any other name is communism straight and simple, these people try to hide such things under neat little labels that they hope others will not notice and they hope others will be blindsided and just take their word for it. but any thinking person should always check these things out for their own good at all times.

  5. I'm thankful for Rushdoony's critique of the undergirding philosophy behind Public Education. Thank you for writing about the background and significance of this book.

  6. "Freedom for me but not for thee." Fundamentalist Christians are the descendants of the Puritans: they fled the Old World because of religious persecution only to persecute others' beliefs when they became the dominant religious force in the New World. The 1A is supposed to mean everyone is entitled to their own beliefs but not impose their ways onto others who have different beliefs. Hence, just as the Puritans, Fundamentalist Christians love to hide behind the 1A when their belief system is under attack but try to find out all sorts of loopholes to pretend the 1A doesn't protect others' beliefs (e.g. Islam, Buddhism, Agnosticism, Atheism, etc.).

  7. Would to God people would pull their children out!

    "The Communist Manifesto" and the Ten Planks Contained therein. They're all in full force and effect in the U.S.S.A., including the evil forum of Pubic "School". Plank #10: Free compulsory education (indoctrination via the public fool system).

    Where your daughters are taught to be whores and your sons to be sodomites! http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/cutest-couple-

    "Since you have forgotten the Law of your God, I also will forget your children." Hosea 3: 6. 

  8. As the wiser might infer from a pseudonym such as mine, I don't share a faith that worships one of my deceased cousins. Nevertheless, is 'Messianic' proper usage for something far more suited to the phrase 'messy anal'?

  9. Texas Chris says:

    Actually, it's not a Christian vs. other religion match-up. It's libertarians vs. authoritarians.

    Public schooling is indoctrination in authoritarianism, plain and simple. That is Rushdoony's thesis. His hypothesis is that this system leads to tyranny, war, and collapse. He cites the Prussians, the Nazis, and the Bolsheviks.

    Who do you cite to prove him wrong?

  10. Texas Chris says:

    Messianic, in that "it comes to save us".

    Which, of course, it doesn't. Quite the opposite, it is designed from the beginning to enslave us intellectually to authoritarian rule.